From The Jam man Bruce Foxton on Irish gigs and new material
The Jam's bassist Bruce Foxton is keeping the iconic trio's music alive with From The Jam, fronted by lifelong Jam fan and Paul Weller sound-alike Russell Hastings. As the group return to Ireland, David Roy spoke to Foxton about maintaining The Jam's stellar live reputation and finding a new creative foil
THE last time we spoke to Bruce Foxton was back in 2007, when he'd just formed From The Jam with fellow Jam man Rick Buckler and was nervously preparing to head out on the band's first run of live dates, including a show at Belfast's Spring & Airbrake.
Eleven years later, Buckler may have departed – the drummer unexpectedly quit via email in 2009 and hasn't spoken to Foxton since (Mike Randon is now on the stool) – but From The Jam have endured: in fact, what's undoubtedly the world's number one Jam tribute band have gone from strength to strength on the back of reliably storming live performances that find Foxton (62) and co rolling back the years night after night while cherry-picking their sets from the Woking mod/punks' impressive back catalogue.
Frontman Russell Hastings – who saw The Jam's farewell show in Brighton in 1982 and now spends a good chunk of the year filling the young Paul Weller's two-tone brogues belting out Jam classics – has also formed a productive creative unit with Foxton, putting out two well-received albums of new material under the bassist's name, 2012's Back In The Room (which featured guest guitar from Paul Weller, returning the favour for the bassist's contributions to two songs on his 2010 album Wake Up The Nation) and Smash The Clock in 2016.
From The Jam are back in Ireland tonight at Dublin's Academy before they play The Ulster Hall in Belfast on Saturday night, a venue they previously packed out last November.
We spoke to Foxton last week as he prepared to head off on tour again.
HI BRUCE, what are you up to at the moment?
Ironing! I'm packing my bags for the Scottish leg of our ongoing jaunt around the country before we come out to you guys. We've been touring since March actually, and it just rolls on and on, which is great.
The packing and the travelling is always a bit of a pain – but then you get to the gigs, and that's what it's all about, basically.
What's in the set at the moment? Do you vary things from night to night given the huge number of tunes in The Jam's arsenal?
We try to [vary it] but we want to and you've got to play the hits really – after all, that's what got us where we are, etc. But we'll change in a few tracks every other night really to keep it challenging and fresh for the band as well as the audience – because some people come to a couple of shows and it would be a bit boring if it was exactly the same set, really.
We also put one or two newer compositions in that Russ and myself have co-written. It's going well.
Smash The Clock got really good reviews, you must be dying to play more songs off it?
It did really well for us considering it was done via PledgeMusic and put out on our own little label by Russ and myself. It was a real little cottage industry-type affair.
We were very pleased with the success of it but we don't really want to alienate the audience by playing all new stuff – there'd be quite a few puzzled faces out there, I suspect! But putting in one or two is good for us.
We've actually got enough new ideas to really get cracking on another Foxton & Hastings album, but we're so busy [with From The Jam] that it's hard to find the time to get into the studio.
Obviously, when you come off the road not only do you have your washing and ironing to do you've got family life. You want to enjoy a bit of that and before you know it you're back out on the road again, so I dunno when we're gonna fit it in.
We were talking about doing another album by the end of the year, but at the moment that seems a bit hard to fathom.
Being so in demand must be a nice 'problem' to have though, right?
It's unbelievable, and it must be testament to those great songs. They've stood the test of time and people want to still hear them – and as long as they want to hear them and I can play, we'll keep doing it.
The Jam's classic third LP All Mod Cons turned 40 this year – are you marking that in any way?
Yeah, we're playing a few tunes off it at the moment but we've actually got to knuckle down sometime between now and September to learn everything because we'll be playing the whole album in its entirety at a few shows.
We've done that before for various anniversaries and you do think 'oh my God, this is going to be a big task', but once you start most of it comes flooding back, thankfully – touch wood!
Fans seem to have accepted Russell over the past few years and you seem to have really 'clicked' with him as a creative unit too. Did you know it would all work out so well when you first started From The Jam back in 2007?
Russ had big shoes to fill and he went about it in his own way. A lot of the public were wondering if it was going to work but obviously he's stood the test of time. Ten or 11 years down the line we're selling out more venues and bigger venues than ever.
There was a very high standard in The Jam. Rick and I didn't want to belittle that by doing cabaret versions of those songs, so it wasn't a decision we took lightly.
We gave it a lot of thought, but once we started rehearsing with Russ it just sounded great – we were playing those songs like it was the heyday of The Jam, so we thought, 'Well, why not? This deserves to be heard'."
The band play with tremendous energy. Is it a challenge to leap about like 20-year-olds every night?
Ha, well it does get harder as the years tick by. I've got a few more ailments now – I've just recently been to a physio to have my shoulder worked on from lugging a guitar around and jumping up in the air like an idiot.
Things slowly wear out – but we all still give it 100 per cent.
:: From The Jam, tonight, The Academy, Dublin and Saturday June 23, Ulster Hall, Belfast. Tickets via Ulsterhall.co.uk and Ticketmaster outlets